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The utilization of nonhospital and hospital outpatient services in the Illinois workers compensation system decreased in 2020, the drop attributed to medical facility closures and service limitations during the beginning of the pandemic, according to a new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute.
Tuesday’s study said the percentage of workers comp claims with major surgery decreased mostly in the second quarter of 2020, likely due to limitations on non-essential procedures due to COVID-19.
Researchers found indemnity benefits per claim increased by 10% in 2020 and then dropped 3% in 2021, driven by duration of temporary disability.
Medical payments, on the other hand, decreased in 2020 and 2021, mainly due to the drop in facility utilization.
The study examined worker injuries between 2016 and 2021 but excluded COVID-19 claims.
In addition to medical facility closures and limitations on non-essential surgeries, the facility utilization drop was also attributed to workers postponing medical evaluations and procedures due to stay-at-home orders and fear of being exposed to COVID-19.
The average cost per comp claim in Illinois was also 21% higher than in other study states, the authors wrote, and indemnity benefits were the largest contributor to total costs per claim, accounting for 46% of total payments.
Indemnity benefits per claim in Illinois have grown at a rate of 2% to 3% each year since 2012, the study states.
The authors said changes in Illinois’ economy may explain the indemnity benefit trends during the study period.